‘A nurse grabbed my hand. ‘I’m right here,’ she squeezed tightly and said. I remember looking around the room to find some sense of peace.’

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“My husband, Marcus, and I met as teenagers. We grew up and married at our local church in 2013. In July of 2016, I learned I was pregnant with our first child. Our dreams of becoming parents had come true and life had truly seemed perfect at that point. But my normal and healthy pregnancy changed Thanksgiving morning when I was admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with an Incompetent Cervix with hourglass membranes.

Pregnant woman stands smiling with her husband
Courtesy Catherine Johnson

I would spend the next five days tilted upside down in the hospital bed, on antibiotics and medications to stop labor, and had a failed emergent cerclage attempt. My water would break and despite our doctors’ best efforts, on November 29, 2016, our daughter, Brooklyn, was born at 22 weeks and 3 days. She passed away that same evening in our arms, and we had never felt more broken in our lives…

Father smiles into white blanker as his newborn that died the evening of her birth
Courtesy Catherine Johnson

We had no answers and left the hospital without our daughter, to an empty home and empty nursery. I remember looking out of the window as we drove home, feeling so much pain, confusion, and heartache. Tears streamed down my face as the world around us had seemed to continue when ours had stopped. Our lives would never be the same, but we would get through it together.

We later met with my OB/GYN and a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist to discuss my Incompetent Cervix and future pregnancies. An incompetent cervix is when your cervix opens too early during pregnancy. It leads to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy and happens only in about 1% of pregnancies. Out of hundreds of births that year for that clinic, we were only one of two losses.

We learned that we could get pregnant again in the future with certain precautions. When we got clearance and were physically, mentally and spiritually ready, we tried again. And in July of 2017, we learned that we were pregnant with our second child, Miles. He was our little rainbow baby and brought so much joy back into our lives. With a preventative cerclage, weekly progesterone injections, bedrest and weekly doctor’s appointments, my pregnancy was going wonderfully… With each passing week, our confidence and excitement grew.

We had already been through the unimaginable and didn’t think things could get any worse until one night when a sudden gush of blood sent us rushing to the hospital… I was diagnosed with a placental abruption and went into Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC). A placental abruption is where the placenta detaches from the uterus too early. It happens in only about 1% of all pregnant women. DIC is a rare, life-threatening condition that can be fatal to the mother and baby. Excessive clotting leads to excessive bleeding and the only treatment was to fix the underlying cause (my placental abruption). I was bleeding out and my body wasn’t able to clot, and the only way to ‘fix’ it was to deliver early.

When they discovered my diagnosis, my hospital room erupted into chaos as nurses rushed to hang blood products on pressure bags and the doctors got Marcus’ consent for an emergency C-section. I remember being filled with fear as they wheeled me away. Three doctors, several nurses, anesthesia and the NICU team filled the OR… People, who were trying to save not just my life, but also our son’s life. I remember looking around the room, praying in my head, trying to find some sense of peace as a nurse grabbed my hand… She squeezed tightly and said, ‘I’m right here’ as I was put to sleep…

On December 7, 2017, our son, Miles, was born at 24 weeks and 3 days. I would spend the next few days in the ICU and our son would spend the next week in the NICU. He would face a pulmonary bleed, a grade 4 brain bleed, and a perforated bowel, but fought hard every single day… But after fighting the most beautiful and toughest fight, he would go to be with his sister in Heaven on December 14, 2017.

We watched the doctors and nurses code our son in front of us. We begged him to stay with us. And when they couldn’t bring him back, the brokenness we had felt with the loss of our daughter had reached new depths we never knew existed. I had never imagined life or motherhood this way. I never imagined that we would bury two of our children. And when we felt like we couldn’t go on, our family and our friends stepped in to help us carry the weight of our grief.

After losing Miles, I would see another specialist and undergo testing over the next few months to see if there was any connection between my pregnancy complications and losses. But all of the blood work, ultrasounds, and another surgery would leave us with no answers. I kept falling into this one percent and I didn’t know why. It was heart breaking and frustrating… But we were ultimately given the hope of continuing our family through gestational surrogacy.

And just when the world seemed so dark, our best friends would step in and help bring us back into the light. They are our neighbors, our family childhood friends; they are God loving, inspirational people who have showed us that we will never walk alone. Herself and her husband have selflessly given us the gift of carrying our child, and we could never repay them.

Husband takes selfie with wife, their surrogate and the surrogates husband in hospital room
Courtesy Catherine Johnson

We went through IVF and embryo transfer last summer and made it to 6 weeks pregnant. We were able to see the sweet sight of our baby’s heartbeat, but would later miscarry… Another loss that tested our strength and our faith. But through it all, our family, our friends and our community have wrapped us in so much love and friendship. Yes, we have endured great loss… But we have also come to know love in a way we never had before. Love for each other, love for our children and love for the village that is determined to help us bring a baby home.

We have experienced many aspects of life together, but nothing could have prepared us for the pain and loss we have faced over the last two and a half years. Nothing prepares you for burying two of your children and miscarrying your third. We have lived the true test of ‘for better or worse’ and have carried each other through the heartache of child loss.We are still continuing our journey and have recently started the process for embryo transfer again. We’ve learned that moving forward doesn’t mean we are moving on. We will take them with us wherever we go… And the best way to honor them is to bring them into the light with us. They are our babies, they will always be a part of our lives and we will continue to celebrate them and bring awareness. We may always grieve our children, but we have learned to not grieve in silence… Pregnancy and infant loss is real, and no one should journey it alone…”

Mother stands at grave of baby who died holding blue number one balloon
Courtesy Catherine Johnson
Father stands at hid deceased baby's grave holding pink balloons and pink number two balloon
Courtesy Catherine Johnson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Catherine Johnson of Memphis, Tennessee. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email subscribe for our best stories.

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